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Sex + Relationships

Time to speak up: My experience in a toxic relationship

Before reading this, I would just like to preface this with a trigger warning, as whilst not sexual abuse, there is mention of negative sexual experiences that has the potential to cause upset


After confiding in many of my closest friends, I realise my experience in a toxic relationship is a story that needs to be told, not only for my own closure, but for anyone also sharing the same experience but may be afraid to speak up. Toxic relationships can be so engulfing and exhausting that it is hard to conceive of their toxicity during, and even after the interaction with the individual has ended. I want to make this something that we are not scared to talk about, so that people are far more willing to share any concerns they may have, and allow a conversation to develop that can help people escape.

Immediately, everything with David* was intense. At the time, although I hate to admit it, I did enjoy it. I remember feeling slightly worried, but having just left another relationship I was happy that there was someone willing to pick up the pieces and make me feel wanted again. I was clouded by these emotions, and refused to see even the most startling of signs. After he asked me to be his girlfriend he said we needed to have sex, during which he repeated he would be the ‘last person inside me’ and that my vagina was his. I was horrified, but after it was all over and he hugged me tight, I just thought it must be his way of showing he loves me. I constantly wish I had discussed my doubts with my friends, however I was so swept away by his intensity that I wasn’t willing to consider this could be the sign of something else.

It became rapidly clear that I was ‘his’ which I was both charmed and disturbed by. The most notable moment was during a night out, when I spent some time dancing with one of my closest friends. I asked her why David was glaring at us from the bar. I went to check on him but he walked away, my friend eventually confronted him. David and I left early together, I felt incredibly upset leaving my friends when I’d simply done nothing wrong. He told me he was hurt that I’d been having fun with someone that wasn’t him. Despite knowing his reaction was ridiculous, his apology and charming jokes about the situation won me over, and soon after I began to joke about the situation to anyone who asked. I spent months telling this story as a funny anecdote about my relationship, ignoring the stunned responses my friends would give me. 

Throughout our year together I was constantly made to feel alone, with him even claiming he was my ‘main person’, and no one, not even my family, cared for me as much as he did. If at any moment I told him of something my sister did to annoy me (as all sisters do) he would immediately knock her, calling her a bitch and not worth my time. He consistently tried to undermine any close relationships I had as they threatened to knock his position of authority away from my life. Stating friends were using me and trying to convince me that they didn’t truly care for me, leaving me feeling as if I could not trust anyone else’s opinions on him. He regularly ensured he was the only voice within my life, drowning out any complaints people would say.

Most of our relationship was long distance, I spent much of the time attributing his unfaithfulness and lack of communication to this. However, after much consideration I’m now aware I allowed far too much to slip through the net. Whilst I will always remain angry that he cheated on me with four girls (that I know of), I am far more disgusted at the way he manipulated and directly lied to me about his infidelity, going so far as to convince me that I should get diagnosed for bipolar. Everything always seemed to be my fault, whether it be because I was overthinking, didn’t trust him, or I was just too sad. I took this to heart, often left feeling broken that I was causing him so much stress and upset. I was left feeling unworthy since I couldn’t keep the relationship going whilst he seemed to be working so hard for it. This destroyed my first year at university, making me feel sick, leaving me struggling to eat at times, often interrupting my study and negatively impacting my ability to make new friends.

The last time I ever saw him he sat me down and told me with tears in his eyes how angry he had been that I had accused him of cheating on me again. He specifically described the situation, even going so far as to claim he had sat down with the girl he had actually (unbeknownst to me) cheated on me with and her ‘boyfriend’, with them both having to calm him down over the situation. I felt utterly horrendous, that I was the soul person causing the relationship to fall apart. My mental health was suffering since he’d convinced me I was so intent on sabotaging my own happiness with him, creating situations in my head that were simply just were not true.

Eventually, he got the guts to break up with me. I honestly think the reason he struggled with this so much was not out of fear of losing me, but rather losing one of the girls that ‘desperately’ wanted him. I still find myself broken over the fact that if David could choose four girls over me, how will I ever expect to find love. Whilst I know these are all ridiculous claims coming as a direct response from his toxic behaviour, I just tell myself it is okay to express these feeling. I’m really lucky to have so many people around me that care for me. Although this has been a horrific experience, I feel I have gained a new appreciation for my own self-worth, as after being trod into the dirt countless times, I’m finally ready to be myself on my own terms.

If anyone needs advice, the Devon council has a helpline, to which all contact details can be found at https://new.devon.gov.uk/dsva/domestic-violence-and-abuse/

*Any names used have been changed to protect identities.

Naomi Clarke

Exeter '21

I'm Naomi, I'm 21 and a second year history student at the University of Exeter. My hobbies include singing, guitar and pole fitness, even if I'm still a little rough around the edges at the last one.
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